In the context of civil litigation, often times the need arises to enter municipal records into evidence. For example, our firm recently represented a client in a medical malpractice action; as a result of the malpractice, the client required a home health aid for the remainder of her lifespan, a hefty amount of damages if sufficiently non-speculatively established at trial. While there are a number of ways the cost of the health aid could be established, such as by expert testimony by an economist; however, experts are expensive and any money spent proving the case at trial ultimately gets deducted from the client’s recovery in the form on disbursements. To preserve as much money as possible for the client, while still proving the case, a better route is needed – luckily the CPLR and the City of New York provide the better way – CPLR §4518(c) and the City’s own records.
Municipalities, like any other large bureaucracy, maintain massive amounts of records, files and information. Specifically relating to the example of our firm’s medical malpractice action, a record containing the costs of home health aide aides are maintained by the New York City Department of Human Resources Administration (http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/downloads/pdf/services/micsa/hcsp_vendor_rates.pdf).
CPLR §4518(c) provides that “All records, writings and other things referred to in sections 2306 (hospital records; medical records) and 2307 (books, papers, and other things) are admissible in evidence under this rule and are prima facie evidence of the facts contained, provided they bear a certification or authentication by the head of the hospital, laboratory, department or bureau of a municipal corporation or of the state, or by an employee delegated for that purpose or by a qualified physician.
Further, social services agency constitutes a business for the purposes of CPLR §4518. People v. Montroy, 225 App Div 2d 913 (3d Dept 1996). Thus, the record of the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) that contains the costs of home health aid is admissible AND, more importantly, are prima facie evidence of the facts contained, provided the records bear a certification or authentication of the department or bureau head.
Furthermore, the dictates of CPLR §4518(c), provides that “Certain business records may be received in evidence without having been authenticated by their maker, but only if they are certified in accordance with CPLR§4518(c)”. Peerless Ins. Co. v. Milloul, 140 App Div 2d 346 (2d Dept 1988).
In simpler terms and relating it to our firm’s medical malpractice case, if the record from the HRA is certified or authenticated, it comes into evidence and is sufficient proof of the cost of a home health aid, no costly expert required.
The court in 20-22 Prince LLC v. Tsue Kwai Yen, 32 Misc. 3d 1224(A) (2011) was presented with a situation identical to the situation our firm faced regarding the admissibility of HRA records. The 20-22 Prince LLC court noted that it was undisputed that the records are certified, and with respect to the admissibility of the records stated that the HRA records can come into evidence under CPLR §4518(c) because they are clearly municipal records that fall within the parameters of the statute.
Equally so, in our firm’s case, the court found that it was undisputed that the records were certified and admitted them into evidence pursuant to CPLR §4518(c) since they were clearly municipal records that fall within the parameters of the statute. The result, over a half million dollar in additional damages for the cost of a home health aid, and no costly expert needed to prove the damages – now that’s a better way!